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World's First Magnetic 4-D Roller Coaster 'BATMAN: The Ride' Debuts at Six Flags Fiesta Texas: VIDEO


The world's highly-anticipated first 4-D free-fly roller coaster BATMAN: The Ride made its terrifying debut at Six Flags Fiesta Texas on Wednesday, San Antonio's KSAT reports:

Not only does it flip head over heels, but you're actually seated on the side of the track with nothing above you and nothing below you," said Jeffrey Siebert, director of marketing for Six Flags Fiesta Texas.

Riders are propelled straight up a 120-foot elevator-style lift before being flipped head-over-heels at least six times. The ride also has a pair of 90-degree drops.

Six Flags officials say the ride features one-of-a-kind onboard magnetic technology and is as close as you can get to flying without being Batman.

"You're completely in the blind, so you really do need Batman-style bravery -- not necessarily a Batman suit -- but bravery to come and challenge this crazy ride," Siebert said.

Watch the new coaster in action, AFTER THE JUMP...


Continue reading "World's First Magnetic 4-D Roller Coaster 'BATMAN: The Ride' Debuts at Six Flags Fiesta Texas: VIDEO" »

Texas Lawmakers Advance 'Pastor Protection Act,' Continue Full-Fledged Assault On Same-Sex Marriage


Last week, we told you how witnesses compared same-sex marriage to bestiality and pedophilia when they testified in support of a bill that would prevent churches and pastors from being forced to participate in gay weddings. 

On Monday, the Texas Senate responded by advancing the bill in a 21-10 vote, with one Democrat joining the chamber's 20 Republicans. 

The Texas Tribune reports on passage of the so-called "Pastor Protection Act": 

State Sen. José Rodríguez, an El Paso Democrat who voted against the measure, questioned whether it could be used to justify a refusal to perform interracial marriages — shielding religious officials from prosecution "no matter how extreme [their] views are."

Pointing out that same-sex marriage is banned in Texas, state Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, asked what problem the bill was trying to fix. 

Whitmire said it was "unheard of" that a same-sex couple would try to force a pastor to perform a wedding ceremony if that pastor did not accept their marriage. 

"They just want to be left alone to love their partner, they want to get married with clergy in a setting that embraces that union," he said.  

More from the The American-Statesman

The legislation also stipulates that clergy, religious organizations and people employed by a religious group could not be sued for damages, prosecuted for criminal violations, lose tax-exempt status or forfeit a government contract or grant for refusing to provide services, open facilities or sell goods related to same-sex marriages.

“I think the language is awfully broad,” said Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, adding that a clause protecting groups supervised and controlled by a religious organization would seem to allow for-profit health care, nursing home and other companies to refuse to serve same-sex couples.

The Texas House is set to vote on an identical bill Tuesday. 

Also Tuesday, the House will vote on a far more dangerous bill, by Rep. Cecil Bell (above), that seeks to undermine a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in favor of same-sex marriage. 

The Texas Observer reports: 

The bill would bar state and local employees from issuing, enforcing or recognizing same-sex marriage licenses—and prohibit public monies from being used to do so—regardless of any court order.

LGBT advocates say if the high court rules in favor of same-sex marriage, HB 4105 would set up a showdown between state and federal law, costing Texas millions of dollars in litigation and potentially delaying the effectiveness of the decision by years. They say the bill would unleash chaos similar to what’s been seen in Alabama over same-sex marriage, and generate the type of business backlash associated with passage of an anti-LGBT religious freedom law in Indiana. ... 

Rebecca Robertson, legal and policy director at the ACLU of Texas, said HB 4105 is designed to give Texas another legal basis for challenging same-sex marriage in court: state sovereignty. And she said it could be used as a model by other states for resisting the Supreme Court ruling.

“The last time that we saw similar efforts to undermine court rulings about what the Constitution requires was when Southern states attempted to use the power of the purse to avoid having to comply with federal court orders ordering school desegregation,” Robertson said. “Those tactics were rejected, but obviously it took years of litigation to get to that point. HB 4105 is trying to do the same kind of end run around the Constitution.”

Despite comparisons to Indiana's religious freedom law, few businesses have come out publicly against the Texas anti-gay marriage bill, according to The Washington Blade

As Texas lawmakers prepare to vote on legislation aimed at circumventing an anticipated U.S. Supreme Court decision in favor of same-sex marriage, the state's business leaders are largely keeping quiet.

The business community's opposition in Indiana helped ignite a media firestorm against a religious freedom law there that is so far absent in the Texas debate. ... 

Robert Wood, spokesperson for the Texas Association of Businesses, said his organization hasn't "taken any position, nor testified" on the legislation and doesn't have any comment at this time.

You can take action against House Bill 4105 here and here

San Antonio Mayor Who Called LGBT Protections 'Waste of Time' Advances To Runoff Election: VIDEO


Anti-gay San Antonio Mayor Ivy Taylor, who recently called the city's LGBT protections a "waste of time," has advanced to a runoff for the seat. 

Meanwhile, the openly gay mayor of a small Texas town was defeated for re-election after he said "bigotry won out." 

Taylor will face Leticia Van de Putte, a former state senator who is a staunch LGBT ally, as they vie to lead the nation's seventh-largest city. Taylor was appointed to the position after Julian Castro, also an LGBT ally, stepped down to join President Barack Obama's cabinet. 

VandePutteVan de Putte (right) was the top vote-getter in Saturday's general election, with 31 percent to Taylor's 28 percent. Because no one received more than 50 percent, they will meet in a runoff June 13. 

Taylor, who voted against the nondiscrimination ordinance as a member of the City Council in 2013, apologized after calling it a "waste of time" last month. But the apology didn't go over well with the Human Rights Campaign or local LGBT advocates.  

Taylor later announced she will finally lay out a plan for implementing the ordinance on May 13, in advance of the runoff. On Friday, Equality Texas issued an action alert calling on people to support Taylor's proposal. 

Van de Putte, meanwhile, has a long history of support for the LGBT community, including voting against the state's marriage ban as a senator in 2005. However, LGBT groups endorsed the third-place finisher, former state Rep. Mike Villarreal, in part because Van de Putte opposes extending the nondiscrimination ordinance to cover private employers. 

Although Saturday's margin was close, Van de Putte remains the favorite because Hispanic and progressive supporters of Villarreal, who finished third with 26 percent, presumably will migrate to her camp. 

Now that she's in a runoff against Taylor, Van de Putte is also likely to receive support from local, state and national LGBT groups. 

PierceElsewhere, in tiny Valley Mills, Texas, gay incumbent Jerry Pierce (right) lost his bid for re-election as mayor, by a margin of 244 votes to 100. reports: 

Pierce is openly gay and said he’s faced some prejudice for that. He said he witnessed hateful messages on social media after the election results came out.

“Unfortunately, from the things I’m seeing posted on Facebook it looks like bigotry won out,” Pierce said.

Watch a report on the San Antonio election from Fox 29, AFTER THE JUMP ...

Continue reading "San Antonio Mayor Who Called LGBT Protections 'Waste of Time' Advances To Runoff Election: VIDEO" »

Texas Teens Score Prom Victories In Face Of Anti-Gay Bigotry From GOP State Lawmakers: VIDEO


Texas Republican lawmakers may want to turn back the clock on gay rights, but LGBTQ high school students in the Lone Star State are overcoming resistance from school administrators to move equality forward. 

DurrIn ultraconservative Amarillo, a female student recently won the right to run for prom king after initially being denied. Officials at Richard Milburn Academy reconsidered their decision in response to an outcry from students who supported 17-year-old Brooke Durr's candidacy. reports: 

Durr is on the ballot now, but she almost was not. The school's director originally took away her nomination, saying only males could be king.

"What happened to me was really, really awful because I was like, why would she do this to me? I don't want anyone to feel like they are worthless like I did at first," said Durr. ... 

Brooke hopes her experience will set a precedent for the future. "Discrimination really does happen and I don't think it was fair. I know that I got back on the ballot and I got what I want, but I was scared for the years afterwards that there would be discrimination."

Meanwhile, in San Antonio, a female student at Southwest High School sported a tuxedo at her prom this weekend after initially being told she had to wear a dress or women's suit. Samantha Amelle Lopez, 18, enlisted the help of LGBT advocates to convince Principal Paul V. Black to change the rule, which clearly ran afoul of federal law. 

LopezLopez (shown with her date at right) also had the strong support of her mother, Patricia Olivo, who says she's a model student and the only bullying she's ever faced has come from teachers and staff members. reports: 

On April 29, just three days before the prom, Principal Black phoned Olivo to tell her the school had changed the dress code and Samantha could wear a tuxedo to the prom. ... 

Olivo says her daughter was overjoyed by the decision, adding that the only downside was the school did not share their decision with the student body. As a result, some lesbian students who had hoped to wear tuxedos to the prom ended up attending in dresses because the school never let them know the rule had changed.

Watch's report on Durr's campaign for prom king, AFTER THE JUMP ...

Continue reading "Texas Teens Score Prom Victories In Face Of Anti-Gay Bigotry From GOP State Lawmakers: VIDEO" »

As Election Approaches, San Antonio Mayor Finally Unveils Plan To Implement LGBT Protections


Last week we told you how San Antonio Mayor Ivy Taylor called the city's LGBT protections — which she voted against as a council member — "a waste of time."

We also told you how Taylor, appointed mayor of the nation's seventh-largest city after Julian Castro stepped down to become HUD secretary, issued a so-called apology, only to have it rejected by the Human Rights Campaign. 

Now, with election day approaching on May 9, Taylor has unveiled a plan to finally implement the 18-month-old LGBT nondiscrimination ordinance, which she will present to the council on May 13. reports: 

The two-part proposal seeks to create a Department of Diversity and Inclusion and to appoint a human relations liaison who, according to the mayor, will “provide a single point of contact” for complainants and “not only receive and review all written complaints from the website but will also provide responsive attention by phone and in person to facilitate conciliation between the individual who believes they have been discriminated against and the business, landlord, or agency involved.” ...

Last October, the mayor appointed an LGBT advisory committee to advise her on developing a process and structure for addressing complaints filed under the nondiscrimination ordinance. It was not until April 21 when Taylor finally met with them to discuss the proposal she is bringing to the City Council.

Read the full description of Taylor's proposal here, and watch a report from KENS-TV, AFTER THE JUMP ...

Continue reading "As Election Approaches, San Antonio Mayor Finally Unveils Plan To Implement LGBT Protections" »

HRC Rejects San Antonio Mayor Ivy Taylor's 'Non-Apology' After She Called LGBT Protections 'Waste Of Time'


Earlier this week we told you how San Antonio Mayor Ivy Taylor had called the city's LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinance "a waste of time" during a candidate forum at anti-gay Pastor John Hagee's Cornerstone Church.

According to the San Antonio Express-News, Taylor's comments received "raucous applause" during the "faith forum," but thanks in part to Towleroad readers, they didn't go over so well on social media

The Human Rights Campaign also joined the fray, issuing a statement under the headline "San Antonio Shame" saying Taylor has "no business serving the people of San Antonio—as mayor, as a city council member, even as dog catcher."

The criticism reportedly prompted Taylor to meet with her LGBT advisory committee for the first time in six months and later issue a so-called apology, in which she said "it was never my intent to insult or demean you [the LGBT community] and I am sorry for the pain and confusion my words have caused."

But neither local LGBT advocates nor HRC were satisfied. The latter issued another statement calling Taylor's response "incredibly weak" and labeling it a "‘Sorry How It Made You Feel’ Non-Apology." And despite meeting with her LGBT advisory committee, the mayor still hasn't revealed a plan for implementing the nondiscrimination ordinance, which she voted against when it was passed by the council some 18 months ago. 

“While Mayor Taylor may have issued something intended to be an apology, her actions speak far louder than words,” said HRC National Field Director Marty Rouse. “If she truly supports the LGBT community in San Antonio, she should not only fully-implement the current law, but urge the City Council to expand the law to protect all LGBT San Antonians from employment discrimination, not just city employees and those doing business with the city. HRC joins Equality Texas in calling for better enforcement of the NDO and the creation of a mechanism for receiving and handling complaints."

At this point, it seems unlikely the NDO will be properly implemented during Taylor's tenure. Appointed as mayor after LGBT ally Julian Castro stepped down to become HUD secretary, Taylor is up for election in May. But she faces two formidable opponents and LGBT allies in former state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte and Rep. Mike Villarreal. Assuming either Van de Putte or Villarreal wins, let's hope the incoming mayor will make it a priority to clean up the NDO mess left by Taylor. 


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